I've been re-reading Thomas More by Richard Marius, and found this interesting passage on page 99. '...More's account is only one of several (my emphasis) written about Richard III by Richard's contemporaries, (again, my emphasis) and none of them is flattering to the usurper king***. Some of these histories were - like More's own - left in manuscript and published long after the writers died. They can hardly be interpreted as self-conscious efforts to flatter the Tudors.'
*** - Why bring Henry VII into this? Oh, sorry, it's author bias, silly me.
This set me thinking, because the only 'accounts' I can think of that might class as contemporary are More, Croyland and Mancini. (Alianore Audley is actually fictional you know, although probably as close to the truth as any of them.) Scarcely several. Hmmm? What accounts have I been missing all these years?
Let's do a bit of deconstruction. (I love a bit of deconstruction with my morning tea.)
First off, More wasn't even born until 1478. He was, roughly, a contemporary of Richard III like I am a contemporary of JFK! He obviously relied on sources. It's generally assumed the work was virtually dictated by Morton, in whose household More lived as a youth. But there's no real evidence for this, just assumption. Morton was Cardinal Archbishop and Chancellor. Would he have had the time, let alone the inclination, to provide some boy in his household with the full SP on Richard III? Anyway, Morton's opinion on Richard - it'd be like asking Hitler for his views on Winston Churchill. (Or vice versa if you like.)
Of course More could have asked other people, but how many of them would be well informed? The old Duke of Norfolk perhaps, the Surrey of Bosworth? Again, would such an important noble have had time to spare for a young lawyer wanting to talk about the past? What could he have said anyway? 'Well, Mr More, I'm glad you asked that, because Richard III was the best king we ever had, and Henry Tudor was a slimy hypocrite with as much right to the English throne as the Grand Cham of Tartary.' The guy spent 1485-1513 just trying to win his dukedom back! He would be guarded in what he said, as would any other surviving Yorkist with half a brain.
Now Croyland, probably the best source we have. Set aside the author's paranoid hatred of anyone from north of Peterborough for a moment. He is generally assumed to have been a well-informed royal clerk - though historians debate about exactly who he was.
But this 'well-informed royal clerk' says nothing about the proposed marriage of Richard III to Joanna of Portugal and the related marriage of Elizabeth of York to the Duke of Beja. Instead he rattles on about the silly fable that Richard planned to marry Elizabeth. Folks, he simply can't have done as the Portuguese marriage proposals were issued within nine days of Anne's death. So either the Chronicler didn't know about the intended Portuguese marriages (in which case he was not a 'well-informed royal clerk' at least as far as Richard's reign is concerned) or he deliberately suppressed evidence that didn't suit his anti-Richard bias (in which case he is not reliable as a witness.)
As for Mancini, he didn't even speak English. He was here for a short visit and presumably picked up what gossip he could understand from people able (and bothered) to speak to him in Latin or French. It's rather like me visiting Russia for a few months and writing an article on President Putin. Except I would have access to a whole range of English language sources through the internet and other media, and at a pinch I could e-mail Mr Putin and ask for his comments on my account. Mancini could not do these things! (Pity, because Richard's e-mail response would have been fascinating.)
Of course, I have forgotten the following contemporary sources! :
Richard III, My Part in his Downfall, Sir William Stanley.
How I stole Richard III's Virginity and Broke His Bed, Jane Shore.
My Saintly Son, and how Richard III Drowned Puppies, Blessed Margaret Beaufort.
How the Lancastrians Were Always The Rightful Kings Anyway (with an account of the holy life of Henry VI, and how I was forced to serve the evil Edward IV) , Cardinal Morton.
Any Road for Twopence, Rt Hon. Thomas, Earl of Derby.